It’s become somewhat of a tradition that Adam and I go on a weekend break when the leaves begin to drop, the nights get colder and our wedding anniversary rolls around every October. We also made a vow to go somewhere at least once a year that we’ve never been before so, a couple of weeks ago, we celebrated three years as Mr and Mrs Valentine in Krakow, Poland.
We flew on early doors Friday and came home on late on Sunday, paying £131 each for return flights (you can get them much cheaper on other dates, from around £33 return). We ended up flying from Liverpool, rather than Manchester, purely due to better flight times.
However, due to cabin crew illness, our flight was delayed by 2hrs 50m then there was a further two-hour delay getting through queues at passport control upon arrival at Krakow airport so, by the time we got to our apartment, we’d lost out on a whole day in Krakow.
A taxi from the airport to the Old Town costs around 100zl (£20), however, you can get the bus for 4zl (80p) so we went for this option – 208 and 252 and 308 and one night line: 902. You buy tickets from a machine at the station using card or cash and are charged in minutes.
I didn’t realise until we landed that the buses are every hour so just bear that in mind when planning your time. It took us around 40 minutes to reach the bus station, Kraków Główny, which was then a ten-minute walk to our apartment.
We booked Happy Guests Apartments purely based on reviews we’d read online. We paid 650zl (£131) for two nights and it was located just on the outskirts of Stare Miasto, Krakow’s Old Town. We stayed in the ground floor apartment, which was clean, cosy and kitted out with everything you could possibly need.
We did buy extra milk from the corner shop but, thanks to our ignorance and not learning any Polish whatsoever before we visited, it turned out to be a bottle of sour cream, which made for a horrific surprise in our coffee the next morning.
It would be a shame not to try the traditional Polish food if you visit Krakow. Pierogies (filled dumplings), beetroot soup, kielbasa (meat sausage), zapiekanka (open-faced sandwich), golabki (cabbage rolls) and bigos (meat and cabbage stew) are all dishes I’d recommend trying.
Vodka is, of course, widely available and my personal favourite is Żubrówka, which is flavoured with bison grass. I first tried it about 12 years ago and, when mixed with apple juice, is a warming, spiced drink that goes down way too fast. I bought a 1lr bottle at the airport to take home, which cost me the equivalent of £8.
What to do
There are so many historic places to visit in Krakow – Wieliczka Salt Mine, Auschwitz – Birkenau, Schindler’s Factory to name just a few. We had planned to spend our second day of the trip visiting Auschwitz, however, due to our unexpected limited amount of time in Poland, we decided to spend it exploring the city as a whole, rather than commit to just or two places.
My cat lady radar was on fire as I stumbled upon both a cat cafe and cat museum within 12 hours of being there. The cat cafe, kocia kawiarnia kociarnia, was free to enter and didn’t require a reservation, which is refreshing compared to ones in the UK.
Despite the fact that the cats had initially enticed me through the door with their adorable cat magic, the menu was also a lovely surprise. We had homemade soup, coffees, cake and cold drinks and the bill came to around 65zl (£14).
The cat museum was…something else entirely. I won’t spoil it but if you know, you know. We also trekked across the river and into Podgorze, a former Jewish ghetto which reminded me of Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Alongside loads of lovely coffee shops and ice-cream parlours, there’s lots of street art and a market to mooch around selling vinyl, food, trinkets, clothes and vintage goods.
The Market Square and Cloth Hall in the Old Town didn’t disappoint, with beautiful architecture and a rich history. We walked the grounds of Wawel Castle (didn’t have time to go inside as we had to be back at the airport) which was breathtaking and somewhere I’d certainly love to see more of in the future.
During our visit, temperatures stayed at around 23 – 26 degrees so we enjoyed a walk through Planty Park in the sunshine and soaked up the rays by the river near the Jewish Quarter with a drink or two, and the best peanut butter brownie cake I’ve tasted.
Krakow surprised me in the best way. Before our trip, I’d assumed it would be a little run-down and dirty, like most European cities. However, it was the polar opposite, like something out of a fairytale book.
We had the loveliest weekend exploring and landed back in England feeling like we’d only just scratched the surface. I’m currently trying to persuade the kids to go to Krakow with us in December next year for a pre-Christmas family break so that we can get to know this hidden gem better.